Sunday, January 25, 2015

Follow me...

3rd Sunday of Ordinary Time:
In the Gospels, Jesus does some pretty amazing things.  We hear about him healing the sick, he tells the paralytic, “rise, pick up your mat, and walk.”  He raises the dead, “Lazarus, come out.”  He fed the 5000 with a few loaves and a couple fish.  He walked on water.  He drove out demons.  He changed water into wine.  He was transfigured on the mountain.  Ultimately, he died on the cross, and rose from the dead 3 days later.  The miraculous and amazing broke out everywhere Jesus went.  But, today in the Gospel, he does something that I think is every bit as miraculous.  Today he preaches the Good News.  Today he walks up to simple, ordinary fisherman and says, “follow me.”  The miracle? They followed.
With a simple word of invitation, these men left everything to follow Jesus.  This is truly miraculous.  Jesus doesn’t force, he doesn’t cajole.  Jesus doesn’t offer riches or gold.  He doesn’t try to swindle or convince them.  He simply and humbly invites them.  They leave everything to follow.  Let’s listen again to his invitation.
This is the time of fulfillment.  The kingdom of God is at hand.  Repent and believe in the Gospel.  Three little sentences changed the course of human history.  Three little sentences changed the world.  These sentences, this invitation caused the fishermen to leave everything behind.  These sentences bring us here today.  Let’s spend a moment thinking about these sentences.
This is the time of fulfillment.  This is a rich and complicated sentence.  What is being fulfilled?  We know that Jesus came as the fulfillment of the promises of the Old Testament.  Jesus came as that Suffering Servant who brings with him salvation.  But, I also think the fulfillment Jesus is talking about is the fulfillment of the human heart.  At the core of every human being there is a deep and passionate longing, a desire for something more, some thing greater.  People have been trying to fill this desire for centuries.  They have tried to fill it with money, power, pleasure, success.  None of these things are fulfilling, none of them take away that longing.  This is the time of fulfillment, because only Christ is the way, the truth, and the life.  Only in Christ do we find what our hearts are longing for, only in Christ do we find communion with God, which is the fulfillment of all desires.
The kingdom of God is at hand.  Our desires are filled by God, by living with God.  We were created to live with God and to be with him.  Because of original sin we have lost that fellowship with God, that kingdom of God.  Jesus came to right the ship, to bring us back, to lead us to the Father.  The Kingdom of God is at hand. 
Repent and believe in the Gospel.  Repent and believe, this is the pathway to the kingdom, to the fulfillment we all desire.  Repent, turn away from your fallenness.  Notice that Jesus doesn’t condemn the fallen sinner, nor does he say that sin is just fine and we don’t have to change.  Rather, he just invites us to go after something new: believe in the gospel.  One basic truth of human existence is that our sins do not make us happy.  Repent and believe in the Gospel is an invitation to something greater.  Don’t we all want that?  Truly this is a powerful and inspirational message, there is something more, this is the time of fulfillment, the Kingdom of God is at hand.  No wonder those fishermen left everything behind.  They saw in Christ something more, something that would truly fulfill them.

Isn’t that why we are here this morning?  We have heard the voice of Christ; we have heard his invitation.  We keep coming back here to Christ because we see in him the fulfillment of our deepest desires.  Just as he did by that seashore so many years ago, Jesus come to each of us in this Holy Eucharist and says, “come follow me.”  Will we follow?

Saturday, January 17, 2015

Peter and Andrew

Today we hear an interesting story about Andrew and his brother Peter.  Andrew was a follower of John the Baptist, who pointed to Jesus: behold the Lamb of God.  He follows Jesus, stays with him.  He knows he has found the Lord, the Messiah.  His reaction?  I better tell Peter.  I need to let my brother know.  This is too good to be true.  I can’t keep this to myself.
Sometimes in our lives we are like St. Peter.  None of us finds Christ on our own.  Someone helps us.  Whether it be our parents, a friend, going to Catholic school, a teacher, an RCIA leader, I’m willing to bet that someone helped each one of us find Jesus.  Now, if you are like St. Paul and Jesus appeared to you in a vision, please stay after Mass because I would love to talk to you…  But, for the rest of us, someone led us. Think for just a second: who led you to Christ?  Where would you be without that person!
I am eternally grateful for the gift of faith.  I owe my parents for introducing me to the faith.  I also owe a great deal to Fr. Glen Kohrman and the RCIA at St. Patrick’s where I was a sponsor, because that experience helped me to awaken my faith.  One of the important things that drew me to the priesthood was the same inclination that filled St. Andrew.  “This is too good to be true.  This Jesus is amazing.  His gift to us is eternal life, the forgiveness of our sins, the precious gift of the Eucharist.”  I became a priest because I felt drawn to sharing with others the great gift I received, most especially the gift of the forgiveness of sins in the sacrament of confession.  After having received so much, I felt called to give back.
Isn’t that what stewardship is all about?  Haven’t we all received more than we can possibly imagine?  If we stop to remember that all of this comes from God, that it is all too good to be true, we will be inspired to want to give back.  Indeed we are committed to Christ and living in gratitude.  

Monday, January 12, 2015

Baptism of the Lord

Baptism of the Lord / Stewardship renewal:
Today we celebrate the feast day of the Baptism of the Lord.  This feast brings an end to the celebration of the Christmas season, and marks the beginning of ordinary time.  I don’t think this is a coincidence.  Today marks the beginning of the Lord’s public ministry, during Ordinary Time we hear about this ministry, we hear his message and travel with him as he proclaims the Good News.  Ordinary Time is our chance to follow Christ, to walk with him, to grow closer to him.  Ordinary time is not simply “ordinary;” rather, it is a privileged moment for us to know Christ and follow him.
Today we hear the voice of God the Father say to Jesus “you are my beloved son, with you I am well pleased.”  On the day of our own baptism God the Father said the same thing to each one of us, because on the day of our baptism we were united to Christ, we too are God’s beloved sons and daughters.
After this declaration from God the Father, Jesus goes out on mission.  Jesus is the beloved Son.  He knows the Father.  He shares the very substance of the Father.  He receives his very essence from the Father.  He hears “you are my beloved son.” The result, he goes out on mission.  I find it interesting that we are called to follow Jesus the same way.  We were baptized.  God calls us his beloved sons and daughters.  We have received everything from him.  We receive our essence from God.  The result?  We too are called to go out on mission, the mission of spreading the Gospel of Christ.
If you are like me you probably made a few New Year’s resolutions.  I hope you are doing well, I know I need to eat less and exercise more.  How about finding ways to spread the Gospel of Christ?  Every year we might make our own personal New Year’s resolutions, but as parish we do this as well.  Every year, as a parish, we renew our commitment to Christ.  This coming week you will receive some information from the parish about renewing our commitment to Christ, our commitment to stewardship this year.  Think of it is as our parish New Year’s resolution.  How do we renew our commitment to Christ this year?  How is God calling each one of us to carry out the mission of spreading the Gospel of Christ?
First, we begin where Jesus begins today.  We hear the voice of God the Father say: you are my beloved son, my beloved daughter.  Through baptism we are united to Christ, through baptism we have entered into the death and resurrection of Christ.  We have received so much.  Everything we have comes from God, he has given us so much.  This is why we are committed to Christ and living in Gratitude. 
As pastor, I am extremely grateful for the amazing response to our stewardship renewal last year.  Our committed to Christ living in gratitude program from last year was a great success and it shows the tremendous commitment that each of you have made to Christ and to the parish.  Over the last year we saw an increase of over $75,000 in the parish offertory.  Your generosity made it possible for this parish to carry out the many ministries and activities that make this such a special place.  For example, our parish mission was a wonderful time of grace and blessing.  Those evenings of prayer, reflection, and community were only possible because of your generosity.  Many people told me just how moving those nights were.  I also spoke with people who had been away from the Church who felt inspired to attend the mission and renew their relationship with Christ.  The mission was only possible because of your financial support, but also because of the many parishioners who gave of their time and talent to make it possible.  
Of course, the mission is just one example of the wonderful ministries and activities possible because of your generous gifts of time, talent, and treasure.  We are committed to Catholic education, both at the school and in religious education.  This year we were able to give more families financial assistance to help them receive a Catholic education.  We are committed to the community, with our food collections, giving tree, and the many ministries supported by the parish tithe.  Your commitment to the parish makes it possible for prayerful liturgies.  You have made it possible for us to make some physical improvements.  We repaired the steeple and upgraded the sound system.  This year we will paint the ceiling and look at refinishing the floors.  We are exploring upgrades to the playground.  All of this is possible because of your generous response to the invitation of God, the invitation we all received on the day of our baptism: you are my beloved son or daughter.

Next week we will have a chance to commit to our stewardship of treasure.  Next Sunday all of us will have a chance to renew our commitment.  You will be receiving information about our commitment Sunday in the mail.  Please prayerfully consider your renewal this year.  In a couple weeks you will also be receiving information about renewing our commitment to stewardship of time and talent.  We will be holding a ministry fair in February.  The next few weeks will be a wonderful moment of growth and renewal for our whole parish.  May God continue to bless this parish, may he inspire each one of us to grow in our vocation as beloved sons and daughters of God.